Exercise 4: Overlapping Edges. Two or more materials that overlap each other are to be joined together. Some samples of joining should be of curved overlapping edges.
I took a longer than usual look at a sweet potatoe (below) that I buy to make Spanish tortilla. It was growing out of my neglected vegetable rack. I immediately saw its stone-like curved shapes had the potential for a joining experiment and decidedit had to be sketched (sample 2.3c.6). I saw its shape as a potential for a collage of joining overlapping edges.
I provoked the idea by thinking of fish scales that are curved and overlapping. I used torn papers that slightly overlay each other. It was fun to do and I can see a direction of sorts to explore overlapping edges using collage further.
For my next two samples: 2.4.2 and 2.4.2a I used the same type of collage to resemble the potatoe/ stone shapes on a background of crumpled paper from a shoe box. I used the torn paper tones from a magazine for all the shapes. In one, I used (removable) red ‘roots’ and for the other I removed them completely. I’m unsure which worked best, or did not work at all. I am in reserve mode. I need time to look back on this exercise and make a decision. I have not exhausted this line of inquiry using collage.
Using ideas from the joining experiments so far, for sample 2.4.3, I overlapped the edges of fraying hessian with a variety of materials, including plant fibers, cotton string, cocktail sticks and wire. I marked the fabric first with a variety of symbols from prehistoric rock art.
I like this example of joining curved edges, it is by Vassily Kandinsky `Free Curve to the Point – Accompanying Sound of Geometric Curves´ Ink on Paper 1925. I am attracted by its pure simplicity of arcs with its two different thicknesses of line. All hovering over a black dot.
The sample below (2.4.4) is inspired by knots of seaweed that I spotted floating on the tide on a beach walk. At home I wrote down words associated with my first impressions, then created a poem. I made a textile piece using kantha stitch, mimicking the curved and straight edges crossing each other in a tangle.
I wonder what it’s like to drift in the tide like seaweed.
Knotted and tangled, the taste of salt in your mouth.
It would be dreamy to lay there floating on the ocean
And watch the clouds and sun move over my head.
The next samples were also inspired by nature, this time a jar of poppies. A simple sketch (2.4.5 and 2.4.6) had me looking in depth at the overlapping shapes. Inside a poppy bud there were deeper layers that I wanted to include in this section. I teased out the imagery in my sketchbook finding textures and then created a textile piece from scraps of fabric. I can see this poppy bud idea with its overlapping edges exposing intriguing elements underneath being taken further.This was an unexpected result given my starting point of seeking out overlapping edges.
The next samples arose from an image I found on the internet of an elderberry seen under a microscope. The textures reminded me of textiles and I tried to copy the overlapping edges by using free machine embroidery on dissoluble film.
There are a lot of samples to be made in this investigation on joining. There are a total of 5 exercises related to joining various surfaces together. For this reason this post deals with the first two, exercises 1 and 2. That is, the samples and commentary about joining straight flush edges together and also joining straight edges with a gap.
I felt a real sense of excitement about this project, I am very much enjoying new lines of artistic inquiry. Sometimes I feel out of my comfort zone but I am learning so many new processes, using different materials and following a whole galaxy of exciting ideas and artists.
At the time of creating some of these samples I was on holiday for a month, in the UK, away from my art studio and tools. I used unsophisticated materials like paper and felt that were easy to access. I also took advantage of British Libraries and spent a lot of time on research as well as visiting artists studios and a September art trail in North Wales. I can never quite leave the itch to investigate art related events, attend workshops, exhibitions or meet other artists. Apart from socialising and family time, other interests have faded into insignificance. I rarely watch television, read newspapers or main-stream women’s magazines. I have far too much to read in the world of art and archaeology. Perhaps third in line is science literature or listening to TED lectures and talks.
Materials for these samples were found easily by visiting a rural ironmongers, stationary shops, the haberdashery and the use of recycled and found materials.
I gathered together rivets, crushed bottle tops, ring pulls, cartons, (cleaned opened out & cut to shape), an A3 sketchbook, acrylic paint, torn fabric strips, glue, masking tape, tomato puree tubes, pipe cleaners, assorted metal shapes, fishing wire, paper yarn, raffia, safety pins, staples, sellotape, crochet thread, plastic coated wire, fine cotton thread, plant fibers, different gauges of wire.
I had been looking at the work of Jennifer Davies (1*) who works in various media, but I particularly liked her handmade paper subjects, especially the scrolls, which are all joined together with stitch and glue. It looks seemingly haphazard, but the whole gives a very pleasing, yet fragile effect.
Exercise 1: Straight Edges joined to Straight Edges
I revisited the work I did at Gwen Hedley`s workshop (Contemporary Kente) whilst participating in an earlier level one course, A Creative Approach To Textiles with the Open College of Arts. I reminded myself of the various process I had used using fabric & stitch as well as using wrapping techniques. I called my piece Spanish Mafia Wedding, the colourways were very different than any of the other participants on the course, with their muted blues, browns and ivories. This course had also been my first introduction to contemporary embroidery and it changed the way I though and worked with embroidery for ever. I deleted from my mind tidy rows of perfect stitches on anti-macassars on my mother’s chair and sofa backs.
Sample 2.1.1a : I clipped tiny holes with a punch using two pieces of strong handmade paper. Next I used button hole stitch along the two edges to be joined to give it extra strength, & then I joined the two resulting edges with a contrasting coloured thread using ladder stitch. The result was a sturdy and malleable surface and could be further embellished, or other surfaces attached to it if I chose to do so.
Sample 2.1.1b: I reinforced a smaller piece of the same handmade paper using interfacing to make it stronger and joined it to the first sample with safety pins.
Sample 2.1.2a: I took a vintage printed fabric and cut straight through the printed pattern in three places. I then joined the two edges together with ladder stitch using a thick thread without reinforcing the fabric or strengthening the edges with anything other than paper underneath, so in effect the surface is likely to fray. Later I thought I could add an iron-on fabric stabliser to the reverse to make it stronger. I liked the sample because it had added an interesting texture to the surface.
Sample 2.1.3a: Two pale brown felt pieces were cut straight across at the edges, I stitched them back together with a variety of cross stitches in different weight threads and outlined the area with small black straight stitches in an effort to show that the join was almost invisible. I did not like the sample, except for the simplicity of the join. I added more joined edges embellishments to make it look more interesting.
Sample 2.1.3b: I took the sample 2.1.3a above and added a dark felt piece using a pair of hook & eyes meant for skirt waistbands, joining them using large French knots in an attempt to make it look decorative rather than ugly stitching. I wanted to expose the hooks rather than use them in the more traditional way of hiding them. The two techniques were simple, but I didn’t like the sample. I wanted to create something on a much bigger scale and use the idea on a different medium. I had no desire to keep adding embellishments to make any more of the work. What I have learned is that even a ‘poor’ sample can be a jumping board for another idea. The second sample should really be in the category below under ‘joining edges with a gap’ and also ‘joining overlapping edges’ using studs.
Sample 2.1.3c. Using the same felt sample I joined two straight edges using metal studs.
Sample 2.1.3d – I used Kantha stitch to join two edges.
Sample 2.1.4: A piece of brown organza was joined with an iron-on webbing to a piece of scrim between two sheets of baking parchment. The invisible webbing partly melted in the centre, where perhaps I had held the iron too long. I feel this sample has potential for more work, despite the fragility of the materials and the melting effect. I like the concept of Wabi Sabi and the idea of mending old or worn sufaces, making them beautiful in the process. This fragile piece may be the perfect opportunity at a later date.
Sample 2.1.5a & 2.1.5b: For these samples I painted paper in my sketchbook in acrylic paints, then tore it into four pieces lengthwise and rejoined with stitches using household string, some areas were reinforced by masking tape. I liked the contrasting different size holes and large stitches. I thought more about presentation as I worked on these samples, and these can be sent in the post to my tutor or for assessment in a flat format. I am also planning to join wood samples on my return to Spain with this method.
2.1.6 a This is the front cover of my sketchbook, which I tore in half then joined it back together with a large zipper. The top and bottom part of the zipper remained exposed with a small gap and I used bold red stitches to draw attention to this. The reverse was rather unstable and capable of being destroyed by too much use. I glued a strip of fine scrim on the surface, this was a mistake and the glue was exposed and looked ugly. I used a thick strip of tape (2.1.6b) instead to make the surface strong and also to have a bold contrast to the prosaic looking brown sketchbook cover.
2.1.7a I took a paper insert from a discarded CD and tore it in half, then stapled it back together. The fragility of this idea was obvious and there was a lot of movement in the paper, that could potentially destroy the piece if there was much handling. I was attracted to the novelty of using staples and I liked the texture. I used two different size staplers. I was feeling a sense of excitement with these shiny metal staples in different sizes and wanted to experiment more with this material.
Sample 2.1.7b: I added a different torn paper CD insert to the edges of the sample 2.1.7a. I used masking tape on the reverse to create a more solid structure. I also liked how the two disparate pieces worked well together. The top and bottom pieces were images of skiers on a ski slope, yet they looked like Ermine on a royal cloak. I liked the extra strength created by the masking tape so much I explored more with this idea.
Sample 2.1. 7c: I carried on being playful with the staples, and I cut many level slices into sturdy paper from a shiny brochure, the paper was stronger than the CD inserts. On the reverse I used masking tape to put the slices back together. I used a stapler to heavily staple all the slices. I really liked the texture this was creating as well as the sheen of the metal in the staples and decided I wanted to explore this idea further with printable fabric. I have opened up a new direction with the use of staples and I have yet to exploit its full potential. These samples are also flat pieces of work that can be presented in my sketchbook. I had also investigated and researched artists who used staples in their work.
French Sculptor Baptiste Debombourg (2*) creates detailed art on white board that needs to be viewed up close to appreciate that he is uses staples as an art material. From a distance his work looks like fine sketches in pencil. Debombourg took 75 hours and used 35,000 staples to create two pieces of art, Air Force One and Air Force Two. Debombourg wanted to play with the ideas using the guise of engraving and to make a comment about contemporary aggression. He uses Italian Mannerism as his inspiration.
Ex 2: Straight Edges joined to Straight Edges leaving a gap
Sample 2.2.1: Dyed felt pieces were stitched together leaving a gap, using a variety of embroidery stitches in different weights. I overlaid stitches on top of each other, some stitches employed sequins, in effect the gap in some cases is barely noticeable. This gap idea with stitches could be exploited on other materials and I wish that I had more time to play with hand made papers, slices of ply wood with holes drilled into it, or plastic piping.
My husband has felled a tree in our garden and there is a large part of the trunk remaining. I asked him tentatively how difficult it would be to cut it into quarters, vertically. (He said he would need to borrow a chainsaw, but was not put off by my query! I asked him to lift it and place it vertically in the ground to examine it more thoroughly). I could foresee a large sculpture ‘stitched’ together with plastic washing line, but that would be a massive amount of collaborative work and perhaps only photographed for my coursework, with no hope of my tutor or an assessor viewing all the hard work. There would only be myself, husband and visitors to the garden to enjoy it. But I like thinking big. And the ideas have sprung from creating these small samples. When I have more spare time I will create the sculpture, collaboratively with my husband, just for pleasure.
Sample 2.2.2: Using a piece of yellow damask and pale blue felt, I joined the felt with bold red paperclips and joined the pieces together with a matching red running stitch. I very much liked the colour drama, crude running stitches and shiny paperclips on matt foundations. I would love to rework this on a number of colour variations and on a larger scale
There are far more ideas I would like to explore…. but with a time limit to work through the coursework, I am taking this sample-making too far. The way my mind works, and the wonderful ideas springing from the samples, I would need a year to complete this section!
2.2.3: Hessian painted & marked with symbols from prehistoric rock art joined with plant fibers, sharpened match sticks, knotted string and household string cross stitches. I added the petroglyph imagery onto eco-dyed cloth using Free Machine Embroidery that I had made last year. There is a need in me work to reach some conclusions, to finish things and these two disparate pieces seem to have all the right ingredients. All this sampling that I am doing is driving me to marry current and previous work. I cannot resist the urge. Its like cutting of my air supply if I don’t follow it.
2.2.4 I used plastic samples that I had fused in an earlier module of this course and joined them together with slices of balsa wood joined with metal studs.
This part of the coursework explores methods of joining two or more pieces together. The second element is to consider joining objects with the additional method of wrapping. This project will encourage and provoke different ideas and methods to develop these two concepts into a shape or object.
The two projects in this section help the student to both acquire new skills, as well as re-visit old skills & techniques learned in previous modules. In my earlier module – A Creative Approach to Textiles, fabric manipulation introduced me to the idea of taking a flat object, like a piece of organza and rendering it into 2 & 3 D formats. In the example below I wrapped strips of organza and wound and then stitched them into a vessel shape.
This Joining & Wrapping module, will also deepen our knowledge base about the creation of three dimensional structures as well as develop our research about artists, designers & makers who use either of these skills in their work.
I will continue to research other artists & their processes, create samples of my own with a personal edge, sort my work with a more skilled eye, develop my skills with colourways & technique as well as record & reflect on my outcomes.
I also feel that visiting art exhibitions and meeting other artists is a crucial part of the learning process. During September in the UK, just prior to beginning this module I viewed the work of an undergraduate Fine Art Degree program and talked to the students and interviewed them for this blog post.
I also visited working artists in their studios and learned about their processes and inspiration. It was such a valuable resource, that I have created a short study of the undergraduates and the working artists, with images of their work in a separate post under ‘Exhibitions’, which can be viewed at the top of the blog home page.
I need a linguistic starting point for the word ‘join’ because it is so wide and universal. Everything I look at is joined in some way to another idea or object, and the more I look at the world around me, the more I see joins and connections between disparate objects and things everywhere.A dictionary definition:To join; a verb
With those helpful words provoking my response to this exercise, I am reminded that Part Two, Project 1 (joining) is to create a number of samples and then assess them for their aesthetic potential and structural capabilities.
For this project, I am required to:
join straight flushed edged surfaces of objects
join straight edged surfaces with a gap
joining curved edges
join overlapping edges
create joins that form corners and angles
The format for approaching the work is the same as in Part One. That is:
Research: (artists, designers and makers)
Sample Making: ( how the practical investigative process informs my personal work)
Recording Outcomes: (thinking about placement, colour, structure, comparing and contrasting, my conclusions)
Sorting: looking at samples that stand out, don’t work, have my personal voice, offer potential for further work or development, reflection
Artists I have studied:
I met Gwen Hedley(*2) at a workshop at Art Van Go in Knebworth, Hertfordshire for an embroidery class called Contemporary Kente. She used the broad idea of African wax cloth, (historically woven strips of fabric created on portable looms & then the separate pieces joined together to create new lengths of fabric). Her piece below epitomizes her artful approach to embroidery and particularly joining. This reminds me of some ancient burial goods from an archaeological dig.
It was the first time I had met contemporary embroiderers and the experience moved my ideas of working with threads exponentially. Gwen provoked us to use a number of mediums to join one piece of cloth to another such as using sticks, cubes of plastic, straws, or wrapped objects, using our broad base of 3 different colours of fabric. She didn’t realise it, but her class woke me from the dread of stitching school samplers on embroidery hoops. The work we experimented with at that workshop was mostly joining disparate pieces of fabric & objects together using a variety of techniques & materials. That earlier work will undoubtedly inform this project.
I bought her book DRAWN TO STITCH: which helps students uncover their process for drawing as a basis for their creative work. Many students are hesitant of putting pencil to paper. This book gently leads the reader into building their confidence with a range of mark making, using a number of tools & materials, before making the leap into making & stitching their own pieces. I also bought her earlier book, SURFACES FOR STITCH which explores the basic materials for exploring any surface for the experimental embroiderer.
I adore her piece above using found objects, complimentary rust colours and dramatic shapes. She has used a number of wrapping and joining techniques. There is something of an ancient icon about this piece with all its miniature wrappings, that resonates in my ‘search for the sacred’. I searched in my husbands dustbin in his workshop for rusty screws and odd bits of wood and metal.
At her workshop, having brought brightly coloured fabric ( she had requested participants to bring three different colours). I had chosen black, red & white, influenced by the carnival culture in Spain. I noted with an initial feeling of inadequacy that many students had brought muted blues, beige’s, whites & ivories. I called my sample ‘Spanish Mafia Wedding’ & after the class, she told me to continue to be daring with colour.I have come along way since that class.
Gwen Hedley is a member of The Textiles Study Group. (TSG) based in the UK. It has evolved into an international group of textile artists and tutors. They practice innovative approaches to art practice and contemporary teaching, with workshops, publications and exhibitions. Gwen has been exhibiting her work in the UK since 1994. Her methods of networking and finding outlets for exhibiting have encouraged me to be more proactive in becoming part of the art community and to be open to invitations to exhibit my work.
Barbara Cotterell 1*
Mixed Media artist, Barbara has a BA Hons in Art in the Community as well as a Diploma in Stitched Textiles. She regularly exhibits as part of the group known as Material Space. Barbara is also one of the 50 artists featured in the book 3D Mixed Media Textile Art. I love her innovated work and the interaction she sometimes creates with the viewing public.
Babara works mostly with salvaged materials & uses subtle changes of repeat images to make cloth-like work. She likes to raise awareness of our collective responsibility and impact upon the environment. She has a preference for working with found materials, especially from the scrap yard and does her best ‘….not to buy anything new….’
“Being around familiar objects always gets me thinking about what I can do with them. Manipulating materials, finding out how they behave individually, how they perform as a group, what kind of fastening works. Everything is about repetition, the similar but slightly changing unit. Like my mother’s sewing it is overall very neat but on inspection wonderfully untidy.”
Her work rests on three principles which I rather admire;
One of the reasons I admire this artist, (an American from German descendants), is that her work uses simplicity, like needle and thread, recycled materials, vintage fabrics and the discarded. She also uses Free Motion Embroidery to express some of her work. I like her references to time and memory. And maybe because she has an interest in the ancient with her BA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, I am drawn to her philosophy.
Damian Ortega (3 & 4*)
I chose to study Damian’s work because he provokes me to ‘think outside the box’, he is an artist outside of the Textile field, and can offer a different perspective. Mexican artist Ortega is considered one of Artsys10 most popular living sculptures, he uses every day objects like bricks, volcanic stones or old tools and provokes his audience to look at them in a different way. In one case he dismantled a Volkswagen Beetle (Cosmic Thing) & the resulting parts were suspended in the air, only joined by fine wires. The order of the dismantled parts almost look like a technical drawing ….. Iconic and boyish. He offers fascinating glimpses into his structures, some with the ability to walk through and touch the work. His ideas provoked me to consider deconstructing a simple structure like and old watch or a non functioning fuse box and then re-join the parts together with fisherman’s wire.
Ortega started life as a political cartoonist and his wit and commentary on our consumer culture continues to motivate his work with his installations, sculptures, performance and videos. I particularly liked the way that in Nine types of Terrain (2007) he took house bricks and stood them upright in a circle, at the touch of a hand they were all knocked over with a domino effect and subsequently joined to each other in the process. He repeated this idea in a number of formations. His work has made me question my own motivations towards a personal approach to my work. I am beginning to see that environmental concerns and the use of waste materials will inform my own working methods.
In Lanzarote I met up with Swiss born, environmental artist Tobias Heeb of coop.org who uses waste materials joined together, from beach clean-ups of our small Atlantic washed island. He was subsequently invited to display one of his many works ‘Whale Tales’ that uses plastic waste, washed up out of the ocean, at an exhibition I was helping to curate. His work is reminiscent of Romuald Hazoumè who’s work I saw in an exhibition in Llandudno in 2011, who uses the diatrius of African culture to create art and give it back to the west.
During my work for the wrapping experiments, it has been an exciting time in Lanzarote where I live. Jason de Caires Taylor (*6), sculptor and award winning photographer, has been on the island for some months creating figures wrapped in marine-safe cement bandages. Some of my art friends have been ‘wrapped’ along with wrappings of local plant life, as well as the typical children’s boats (bolataroes) made from old tin drums. With two straws put up your nose during the wrapping, I desisted. Otherwise I would love to have been a model and wrapped with my image in perpetuity at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
All his wrapped figures have been on view in the Museum of Contemporary International Art (MIAC) in the old castle in Arrecife. Some of the images below are my own, the others are used with permission from the artist. All the wrappings are soon to be placed in the ocean off the coast of Playa Blanca (March 2016). This will help create a coral marine-scape and anyone is free to dive and visit the marine sculptures. Taylor’s first marine scape was created in 2006 and is located in Grenada in the West Indies. It is described by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World.
Textile artist Ali Ferguson’s work has come to my attention from reading the book 3D Mixed Media Textile Art (1*). I contacted her to get permission to use some of her images and now I see her work in progress and images on Facebook. Her work is very distinctive and I like the way each of her pieces has its own unique narrative and identity. Some of her canvases are joined by drilling many holes and stitching them together in an intriguing display with other added found objects that enhance the whole piece. Her materials can be printed fabrics, old letters, recipes or vintage odds and ends. In building her work in many layers… ” it reflects how lives are a series of layers with everything that has gone before affecting everything that happens after”.
1* 3D Mixed Media Textile Art
2* Gwen Hedley: My workshop with her and her website
3*The Twenty First Century Art Book, PhaidBon Press, 2014. ISBN978 O7148 6739 7